Untitled Sermon (2)
9 Dec 18
The Way of Hope
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ”
Advent - a time of celebrating the arrival of Jesus the Christ. Jesus, the Son of the Living God; Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus, Iēsous in Greek. Yehosu in Hebrew. His name means Yahweh saves. Advent reminds us that God desires to save, thus God became man.
Jesus – He shall be called Immanuel - God with us. Jesus,
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
He took on flesh to save souls. He became a fellow sojourner. He walked our roads. Ate our food. Lived our lives. He no longer looked “down” at us from heaven, but was born of the virgin Mary that He might look at us face to face - eye to eye. The God who saves us, is indeed the God who is with us.
Yet, God alone does not save. God saves in a collaborative effort with His people.
God saves the world through His Son and in partnership with His Church.
If you are in Christ, then you are a member of His Church, and you have a part to play in saving the world. Advent should remind us that the season is more about salvation than silver and gold. Christmas, perhaps more than any other season should remind us that God collaborates with people and the universe to proclaim His Son as the Savior.
Let’s look at John the Baptist this morning and see how God collaborates with people. I want to briefly answer 5 questions about John – Who, What, When, Where and Why. Who was John? What did he do? When did he arrive? Where did he go? And Why John?
1. Who was John?
John was a Baptist, but Jesus was a Nazarene
John was called the Baptist because …. Jesus was called a Nazarene because ….
John’s parents where Zechariah and Elizabeth – both righteous in God’s sight and of priestly lineage. Elizabeth was a relative of Mary - which made John a relative of Jesus - probably cousins. So they knew each other growing up.
John was a man dedicated to the Lord by his parents, and by his own choice. He was full of the Holy Spirit. He was an evangelist and prophet. Jesus called him the greatest – even greater then Mohamad Ali. Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. John ate butterflies and locusts and stole honey from bees. You tell me, who was greater. (If you don’t get that ….)
John’s ministry and message were so powerful and convicting that people asked if he was the Messiah. John said, “No, but thanks for the compliment. One more powerful than I is on the way.” People from all over came to see John – they began to repent and be baptized under his ministry.
Here’s what we need to know about John - He knew the Messiah; therefore, he knew himself. Consequently,
He knew he was a partner in the scheme of redemption.
God alone rarely saves alone. He saves the world through partnership with people.
How well do you know the Messiah? The more you know Him, the more you will know yourself, and consequently, you will know your place in the scheme of redemption.
Answer this – what is my place in the scheme of redemption? How am I in partnership with God to proclaim Christ?
2. What did John do?
John evangelized, baptized – he was a human pesticide. In
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
We understand that God chose John and filled John with His Spirit, but look at
during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
He received a word from God and then went and shared that word, that message. So, here’s the question – and everyone should answer –
What is my word from God? What is my message?
I am convinced that every Christian has a message to share. What’s your message? What are your experiences with God and revelations from God? That’s your message! For example, I know the devil is powerless against confession. When we confess, God works. I can tell that with conviction because I’ve experienced it. When I share my story, with conviction – it’s powerful. Same is true for you!
So, what did John do? He told his message – and in so doing, he prepared the way for the Lord and helped people see God’s salvation (v6).
If you are in Christ, you have a message, a story – share it. That’s where the conviction and power is.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
I think we get timid when we get away from our story (includes the gospel). But when we share the truths of what God has done in our lives – powerful!
3. When Did John Arrive?
John’s birth and ministry was the collision (or collaboration) of man’s prayer and God’s plan.
In Luke 1, Gabriel the angel told Zechariah, “Your prayer has been heard.” What that prayer was, we don’t know, but we’re confident it was connected to John and the Messiah. He prayed!
But John’s arrival was also the result of God’s plan. Roughly 700 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah wrote about the one who would come before the Messiah and prepare His the way. The four gospel writers and Jesus himself testified that John the Baptist was indeed the one whom Isaiah wrote about.
Think about it – the universe (stars, planets etc.) had to be in the right place at the right time for the birth of the Christ. The magi had to be in the right place at the right time to see the right stars. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph had to be in the right place at the right time – and do you know what at the right time. The birth of John – the birth of Christ – John’s ministry, Jesus’ ministry –
The entire scheme of redemption had to be coordinated with absolute precision on a microscopic and a macrocosmic level.
When did John arrive? Precisely when God intended.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
The entire universe, people, places, events, history fixated upon that one event – the cross. So everything had to be at just the right time.
With that truth in mind, what do you need to hear from God right now?
4. Where Did John Go?
John’s life and ministry was centered around the Jordan River and in the wilderness. The wilderness is a desert environment - mostly inhospitable, arid, barren, dangerous. Not exactly the ideal place for a spiritual retreat. Yet,
Time in the wilderness is a key component of one’s spiritual journey.
Moses, Israel, David, Elijah, Jesus - all spent time in the wilderness - in preparation for for whatever God would have them do and for wherever He would have them go.
The most significant lesson we can learn about the wilderness comes from Israel after leaving Egypt. Their wilderness journey was designed to extract Egypt from their hearts and then sanctify them. This is called circumcision of the heart, where the love of the world is removed and replaced with a love for God - set apart for God. It’s in the wilderness that people learn to depend upon God. So, John went to the wilderness to remove worldly passions from his heart and replace them with a holy passion for God and people.
Curious, has God ever led you into the wilderness? Times when you didn’t know what you’re doing, where you’re going - God was nowhere to be found? Wrestling in the faith? Desert experiences are difficult – but necessary.
So, John went into the wilderness to draw close to God. But this is also where He conducted his ministry.
John went to the arid, desolate, dangerous place to minister to arid, desolate and perhaps even dangerous people.
As he did, his ministry grew. People came from all over to see him, hear him preach and to be baptized by him. People were turning to God. On his way to having a mega-church. Then Jesus showed up. John’s popularity waned. Attendance declined (see, people were leaving the Baptist to go to the Nazarene.)
How does John respond? With Joy.
He must become greater; I must become less.”
Sometime later, John was arrested by Herod and thrown into prison - with full knowledge of Jesus.
Are we willing to go into the wilderness to draw close to God, to learn dependence upon Him? To have the passions of the world circumcised from our hearts? Are we willing to become less, even lose popularity, so Jesus can become more?
John, grew up with Jesus. Jesus called him the greatest of those born of women. John obediently prepared the way for the Lord. John went to prison, and his death – beheaded.
Let that sink in.
5. Why John?
Out of all the people in Israel, why him? Why not! When it comes to God choosing people to be His partners, whom does He have to choose from? No one like God. No one who is perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful …. If God is looking for a partner who is just like Him - pickings are slim.
God is not looking for God to be on the team - God is looking for you to be on the team!
You! Me! Us! Looking for people who are not perfect – misfit toys – to bring His message.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
Jesus said, “Look, this is just the way it is – deal with it and baptize me.” (my paraphrase …) So, why John? Because God chose him! That’s all there is to it.
John wasn’t worthy, but He was called.
None of us are worthy so get over it! God used a locust eating, honey sucking, momma dressed him funny man to prepare the way for the Lord. God can use you and me.
Jesus is the way of Hope … and so are you.
Who. What. When. Where. Why.
John the Baptist, was “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, He prepared the way for the Lord; made straight paths for him. John filled in the valleys, made the mountains and hills low. He straightened crooked roads and smoothed the rough ways.” In other words, he did what he could to help all people see God’s salvation.”
A C B